Updated: May 5
Asbury Park packs at a ton of beach and Boardwalk activities in its one-mile beach between Loch Arbour and Ocean Grove. With its proximity to New York City, a renewed Boardwalk, plenty of on-street parking and paid lots, Asbury Park and the Asbury Park Boardwalk are hopping from spring to fall. Without a pandemic, it promises to be a summer of music and fun.
North Beach: surfers and dog lovers
Walking south from Loch Arbour, a jetty separates the tiny beach town from popular Asbury Park. The jetty creates a decent surf break, so the city's beach staff has wisely designated the area between Deal Lake Drive and Eighth Avenue as a surfing beach, and no swimmers are allowed during the summer season after 9am starting daily from June 11. After July 4th, throngs of kids and young adults take up the surfing challenge at surf camp. The area between the jetties on Deal Lake Drive and Eighth Avenue is a surfing-only beach (no swimming is permitted):
South of the surfing beach, dog lovers flock to Eighth Avenue Dog Beach. From May 16 to September 14, bring licensed dogs to play on the beach from 6pm to 8:30am daily. Dogs can even be off leash if "properly supervised." The rest of the year dogs are permitted at all times on the Eighth Avenue Dog Beach. Dogs on a leash are allowed on Boardwalk off season.
Also, check out Yappy Hour at The Wonder Bar, where bar-goers are welcome to bring their dogs to a fenced-in, outside area. Times vary throughout the year.
After years of neglect on the north end of the Boardwalk, the developer iStar in conjunction with the city significantly improved the area with restrooms, dune space, bike racks, better lighting and
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more parking (see photos above). As critics will be quick to point out, iStar spent money to redevelop the area as part of being granted the right to develop two large, nearby vacant lots along the Boardwalk. Asbury is home to the Asbury Park Fishing Club, the country’s oldest saltwater fishing club, but fishing is prohibited near bathing areas. During the summer season, there aren't many fishermen along the beach.
Greetings from the Music Capital of the Jersey Shore
Asbury Park's most iconic building is Convention Hall with its twinkling outside sign--Greetings from Asbury Park--which popularized when Bruce Springsteen's inaugural album Greetings from Asbury
Park, N.J. hit the airways. Inside the building are two venues -- the mixed-used convention hall and the 1600-seat Paramount Theatre with access from Ocean Avenue. Unfortunately both are closed for the moment because of structural issues. Connecting the two is the Grand Arcade with restaurants and shops. There are bars along both sides of Convention Hall, including one that in the summer on the north side spills out to the sand. In addition to Springsteen, Elton John, Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones are some of performers that have graced the Convention Hall stages.
Equally famous as Convention Hall is The Stone Pony right across Ocean Avenue. It's in full swing inside and out. The Stone Pony outdoor Summer Stage starts this weekend on Saturday, May 7 with Sum 41 and Simple Plan. This is an amazing outdoor venue adjacent to and behind the club. Other major venues in Asbury's thriving music scene include The Wonder Bar, Asbury Lanes, House of Independents and The Saint.
At The Asbury Hotel, what's new this summer starting Memorial Day Weekend:
Outdoor Movies at Baronet - Thursday to Sunday throughout the summer, guests and locals alike can sip and snack on bites while watching their favorite films at the Baronet on the 6th floor.
Summer Tea Dance Events – Every Friday, The Asbury will host Summer Tea Dance events featuring local DJs and drag.
Full Moon Parties – There will be a series of full moon parties throughout the summer featuring live music, among other entertainment.
Site of Deal's Life-Saving Station or Not?
Before there was the United States Coast Guard, there was the United States Life-Saving Service. In 1848, NJ Congressman William Newell advocated for a law to establish eight unmanned lifesaving stations from Sandy Hook to Long Beach Island to provide "surf boat, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for the better preservation of life and property from shipwreck".
Both the US Coast Guard and the U.S. Life-Saving Service Station Heritage Association note that there was a life station in "Deal", specifically on Deal Lake, although they describe it as "little more than a boat house."
But exactly where was the station? On the Loch Arbour side? Or the Asbury Park side? Prior 1890, Deal Lake was an estuary open to the ocean, not really lake. So just as the station furhter south along the Shark River sat on the north side, I believe Loch Arbour can claim to be the site of one of the original life-saving stations in the United States. If anyone has more info, please let me know!
By 1878, the volunteer life-saving role was assumed by a new federal agency, the Life-Saving Service, which refurbished, replaced or built 40-plus stations from Sandy Hook to Cape May including a new Deal station in 1882. From 1871 through 1914, the Service aided 28,121 vessels, and rescued or aided 178,741 persons. It's unofficial motto: “Remember, you have to go out, but nothing says you have to come back.”
Where Asbury gets its name
James Bradley, a recent convert to the Methodist religion visited Ocean Grove in the 1870s and saw the opportunity for beach town development at the Jersey Shore. Bradley bought land immediately north of Ocean Grove and names the area Asbury Park after Francis Asbury, the founder of Methodism in the United States. Bradley's statue, not Francis Asbury sits in the park across from the Asbury Park Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre. Guess where else Bradley invested at the Shore??
Boardwalk's future is looking up
South of Convention Hall, you see the modest storefront of Madam Marie's Temple of Knowledge, a fortune teller establishment that has been on the Boardwalk on and off since the 1930s. It became famous when Madame Marie was mentioned in Springsteen's song 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) with this lyric: "Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do?"
Madame Marie (aka Marie Castello) died at age 93, but her family still runs the business. The signs are all positive from the Boardwalk. In the photo on the upper left from May 2020, there was doubt about the effects of the pandemic. Then last year, the owners showed more positive vibes by ordering new furniture.
Mini-Golf, Water Park and a Swan Song
With the absence of amusement rides, Asbury is generally more focused on teens and adult. However, kids will enjoy Asbury Eighteen, a mini-golf course on the Boardwalk, the Asbury Splash Park and The Silverball Museum Arcade, which is open year round. All three attractions have paid admission.
Each summer, giant swans, two green dragons, a blue heron, and a pink flamingo ply the calm waters of Wesley Lake which you can see from the southern end of the Boardwalk. As visitors have done for more than a hundred years, you can paddle in these oversized boats from late morning to dusk. Boats are limited to two adults and one child or an adult and two children.
Tips for Visiting Asbury Park
What's New: Asbury Ocean Club Hotel re-opens. The Stone Pony Summer Stage starts this weekend with Sum 41 and Simple Plan.
Road Access & Parking: There is metered parking by the beach and on and near Cookman Avenue. Download the Asbury PARK app. It's easy to use.
Amenities: Restrooms are located in Convention Hall and across Fourth Street between Ocean Avenue and the Boardwalk.
Beaches: Beach badges are required weekends from May 28 through June 13 and then daily from June 14 to September 5. Daily beach badges are $6 Monday through Friday and $9 weekends and holidays and be purchased through the Viply app or at the beach. Seasonal beach badges are $70 for people 18 and older, $20 for people 13-17 and seniors 62 or older.
Starring Role: The Asbury Park Boardwalk has been featured in the movies The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke, Baby It's You with Vincent Spano and Rosanna Arquette, Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, City by the Sea with Robert DeNiro, Homeboy with Mickey Rourke, Blinded by the Light and an episode of the TV series, The Sopranos.
Follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he recounts his 2021 walk of every beach along the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read all updated stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.